White Sox EVP Ken Williams remains proud of injured 49er son
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org January 29, 2013 11:30PM
Updated: March 2, 2013 7:29AM
NEW ORLEANS — Despite his own high-profile position, White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams often is approached by strangers about his son Kyle.
“The funny thing about it is, they say, ‘Your son plays in the NFL for the 49ers. You must be proud,’ ” Williams told the Sun-Times on Tuesday. “And my reaction catches them by surprise, most often because I’m not as proud of him doing what he’s doing professionally. I’m most proud of who he is as a person.
“He’s a solid, impressive young man.”
Kyle Williams’ character has been tested many times in the last year, the influence of his faith and family navigating him through incredible highs and lows. In the cruel-
est of twists, he was at the Super-
dome on Tuesday, where he
suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in a 31-21 victory Nov. 25 against the New Orleans Saints.
“It’s bittersweet, it really is,” he told the Sun-Times. “But you have to put those feelings aside for the team. You have to be professional about it.
“But it definitely sucks.”
A sixth-round pick of the 49ers in 2010, Williams established himself as a backup receiver and returner, endearing himself to his teammates and coaches with his versatility, approach and leadership. After appearing in only five games as a rookie, he missed only three games in 2011 and contributed 20 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns. He also handled six punts and kickoffs.
But Williams lost two fumbles in a 20-17 overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game last season and was subjected to vicious attacks on message boards and on Twitter.
The 49ers collectively, however, defended him.
“From the outside looking in, you say, ‘I don’t know if I could handle that. I would tank.’ Then you go through it and say, ‘Maybe I’m stronger than I thought I was,’ ” Williams said. “I learned a lot about myself. But it’s definitely not anything I would recommend going through.”
His father’s background — a two-sport star in East San Jose, Calif., a major-league outfielder and a World Series-winning general manager — provided Williams with some much-needed perspective.
Ken to Kyle: “Are you man enough to handle this?”
Ken: “You know what’s coming?”
Kyle: “I’ve been preparing for it since I was a little kid.”
In the spring, Williams impressed his coaches with his mind-set, and he opened the 2012 season strong.
“Seeing his resolve and his desire to come back, that was inspirational to the rest of the guys,” 49ers chief operating officer Paraag Marathe said. “A lot of guys would fold up the tent and pack it in, but he did the opposite.”
Williams appeared in every game, starting three at receiver, and he had a seasonlong 57-yard reception in Colin Kaepernick’s first NFL start on ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ against the Bears. He blew out his ACL the next week.
Once again, the 49ers reinforced their belief in Williams, insisting that he remain close to the team instead of rehabbing in another city.
“These guys are like family to me,” Williams said. “They’ve stuck with me through injuries and whatever happened last year. It’s tough to forget that.”
Williams isn’t on the field, but he’s still a key part of the 49ers.
“He’s like my little brother; I can’t lie to you,” receiver Michael Crabtree said. “I talk to him every day.”
Whenever he can, Ken Williams has attended games for his children. But he won’t be at the Superdome for Super Bowl XLVII.
“I’m not coming to watch him cheer on the sideline,” he said. “If he were playing, absolutely. But I have a great couch and a great TV [in Chicago].”
Kyle Williams hopes he’ll be back to full strength by training camp. Then look out.
“I can’t wait to get back out there,” he said.